Exports of Mexican beef to Japan grew by 260% in 2005 over 2004, thanks to Japan's ban on U.S. and Canadian beef exports, the Kyodo News reports. Last year, Mexico exported 6,700 tons of beef, compared to 1,772 tons in 2004.

Mexican Ag and Fisheries Minister Francisco Mayorga says he expects Mexican beef exports to grow by 15-20% in 2006.

"I think they (people in Japan) will find Mexican beef very tasty and will continue to buy even if it (Japanese market) opens to the U.S.," Mayorga says in the article.

Overall, Mexico-Japan trade hit a record high in terms of value with the sum totaling $9.48 billion, up 28.9% from $7.35 billion in 2004, according to the Mexican government's foreign trade bank.

In addition, Japan's investment in Mexico jumped 73% to about $1.12 billion from $648.7 million last year, reflecting active investments by Japanese auto and auto parts manufacturers.

Mexico and Japan signed a free-trade agreement in September 2004, though negotiations continue regarding Japanese tarrifs on chicken, beef and oranges. The two countries are expected to resume talks on beef and oranges this year, though they failed to strike a deal on chicken tariffs last year, the article says. -- Joe Roybal